Even before a Clinton concession speech, Pharma stocks were hopping and Wall Street saluting over a Trump administration. No pesky price regulation over drugs like EpiPen or Sovaldi. No speed bumps over the safety of drugs like the blood thinning Xarelto, linked to 500 deaths. No DOJ lawsuits about off-label marketing.
But is Pharma celebrating too soon?
Trump is unlikely to object to companies seeking overseas incorporation as AbbVie, Pfizer, Walgreen or Medtronic have done in light of his own tax situation but what about manufacturing? Pharma not only increasingly manufactures its products in other countries like other global industries it also increasingly tests them overseas. From 1990 to 2008, the number of U.S. drug trials conducted overseas grew by 2,293 percent! China and India are top drug trial venues followed by Romania, Peru, Thailand and Ukraine.
Pharma favors overseas trials for the same reason corporations ship out jobs. Less regulations; cheaper labor. Drug trial subjects are compliant and often believe they are being treated for a disease. Language barriers render consent forms almost meaningless and some medical professionals recommend videotaped consents for that reason.
Overseas subjects are often also desirably "drug-naïve"—they have never used the antibiotics, statins, GERD medicines and sleeping pills seen in industrialized countries and prove better drug subjects. Some will remember the Pfizer antibiotic Trovan was tested on Nigerian children before approval in 1996 resulting in 11 deaths.
If Trump is looking for an industry that abuses poor and working people he need look no farther than Pharma. In February a smirking Martin Shkreli, founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals, refused to explain or defend his price hike of the antiparasitic drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 on the Hill, a price hike that could put the life-saving drug out of reach for some. With clear derision for regulators and the public itself, he tweeted that lawmakers were “imbeciles” after he testified. Then Mylan jacked the price of its EpiPen, an emergency allergy treatment that saves lives, to $600 up from the $100 almost overnight this summer. After public uproar, Mylan offered EpiPen cost breaks to low-income people--a common Pharma ruse that simply shifts costs to others while letting Pharma keep its prices. Meanwhile hepatitis C drugs that cost $84,000 a course of treatment are looting our Medicaid tax dollars in strapped states.
What does Trump think of the nomination and confirmation earlier this year of Robert Califf as FDA Commissioner despite financial links to 23 Pharma companies—the companies he is supposed to regulate? A fox guarding the hen house? His financial links include Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Merck, Schering Plough and GSK according to a statement on the website of Duke Clinical Research Institute which he directed. In disclosure information for an article in Circulation, Califf also lists financial links to Gambro, Regeneron, Gilead, AstraZeneca, Roche and other companies and equity positions in four medical companies. Califf “served as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for Genentech,” said the Medscape website.
Greedy Pharma companies not Obamacare have made everyday drugs exorbitant for most people while they ship both manufacturing and safety testing overseas. Will Trump give Pharma a pass?